Manufacturing Technology Use in the U.S. and Benefits

  • Paul M. Swamidass


Industrial revolution over the last few centuries was made possible by the progressive use of more and more manufacturing technologies for the purpose of replacing manual labor, and for improving quality and quantity of output. The process of new manufacturing technology introduction goes on even today. Today, manufacturing technologies are more diverse and complex than they used to be.

Manufacturing technologies may be classified as either hard or soft technologies. is a list of hard and soft technologies included in a recent study by Swamidass (1998). Hard technologies are hardware intensive with associated software. Soft technologies are manufacturing principles, practices, techniques and know-how that may be enhanced by hardware and software.

The annual growth rate of U.S. manufacturing productivity (output per work hour) is at about three percent since early 1980s (Bureau of Labor Statistics; The Manufacturing Institute). U.S. manufacturing productivity has increased 285 percent since 1960. Due to higher productivity growth in manufacturing, inflation rates in manufacturing have been lower than the whole U.S. economy—the inflation rate in manufacturing between 1995–1997 was 1.2 percent per year while the overall inflation rate was 2 percent (Department of Commerce; Manufacturing Institute). Manufacturing productivity in the U.S. exceeds that of other major industrial nations including Japan and Germany; 1996 Japan’s productivity was 78 percent of the U.S., and Germany’s productivity was at 82 percent of the U.S. (Manufacturing Institute; Van Ark and Pilat, 1993). The productivity of the U.S. manufacturing sector enables it to hold its share of world exports; U.S. share of world merchandise exports has risen from 11.4 percent in 1986 to 12.9 percent in 1997.

This article describes the results of a survey of manufacturing technology use in the U.S. and its findings.


Inflation Rate Local Area Network Computerize Integration Factory Floor Automate Material Handling System 
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  1. Swamidass, P.M. (1996). Benchmarking Manufacturing Technology use in the United States, in The Handbook of Technology Management, edited by Gus Gaynor, New York, NY: McGraw-Hill.Google Scholar
  2. Swamidass, P.M. (1998). Technology on the Factory Floor III: Training and Technology Use in the U.S., Manufacturing Institute of the National Association of Manufacturers, Washington, DC. The Manufacturing Institute. The Facts About Modern Manufacturing, fourth edition. Washington, D.C.Google Scholar
  3. Van Ark, B. and D. Pilat (1993). “Productivity levels in Germany, Japan and the United States: Differences and Causes.” in Brookings Papers on Economic Activity, Microeconomics, #2, 1–49.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2000

Authors and Affiliations

  • Paul M. Swamidass
    • 1
  1. 1.Auburn UniversityAuburnUSA

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